Saturday, September 30, 2017

That whole socializing thing.

A lot has already been written and said about the myth that homeschoolers lack exposure to social situations. I’m not sure I have anything new to add, but I met a dad today who told me he would love to homeschool his daughter, but his wife was worried about that “whole socialization” thing. I offered to have his wife call me to talk about the realities of homeschooling and then I wondered what I would say to her if she were to actually call.

I might start by offering the idea that homeschooling is extremely efficient and because of this there are hours and hours left in the day to plan social events, attend field trips, play with neighbors, friends, and siblings and go to homeschool park days, beach days, or other events.

I might ask how much natural and organic socializing happens at school. I would wonder about clumping kids together simply based on their birthdays as being a way to find true peers.

I might suggest that when mixed genders and ages come together in places they all find stimulating and engaging, they know they are with people who have similar interests and passions, allowing for quick and meaningful connections.

On the flip side, I might add that homeschooling encourages and fosters exposure to all kinds of new and different experiences so meeting people who are different from you, with different skills, different strengths, different cultures comes naturally as well.

Or, I might wonder how a homeschooler who lives freely in the world, who interacts with mentors, parents of other homeschoolers, teachers, and all kinds of community members could lack exposure to social opportunities.

I’m not at all saying that going to school doesn’t also provide opportunities for social interaction, I am saying, though, that homeschoolers have ample opportunities for meaningful social interaction on a daily basis. They also have a choice about when they are in the mood to interact and when they need some down time. Homeschoolers can choose when they need more social time and when they just need to withdraw and/or dive deep into a solitary activity.

Social development is an important component in homeschooling. Socialization, maybe isn’t so much of a priority. In our family, we aren’t especially interested in conformity or fitting in. We are interested in supporting and developing relationships with people who will appreciate us for who we are. We are interested in finding friends who can open our minds and our social development includes trying as many new things as possible and interacting with as many different kinds of people as possible.

The key to homeschooling is the freedom to be as social as one wants and needs. In our house we have a variety of social needs and one amazing benefit is that we can meet our own individual needs. One of us loves as many people together as possible and as often as possible, and loves group, collaborative learning. We can make that happen, easily. One of us loves one on one time with one friend at a time for long hours at a time, but maybe just a couple times a week and likes to separate his learning from his social time, except for in specif We can make that happen, easily. Homeschooling has something for everyone in terms of social development. And like all aspects of homeschooling can be custom to meet the individual needs of each family member.

So, I hope this mom calls me and I hope she’s interested in hearing what I have to offer. And, I hope she asks a gazillion questions to really get down to the nitty gritty of what it means to be a homeschooling parent. We could all benefit from deep and meaningful conversations about difficult topics. And, I can’t imagine a better way to encourage social development than having the hard conversations. So, call me.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Summer Home Schooling

Can I try Homeschooling in the summer?

Sometimes parents say to me that they are going to “try out” homeschooling for the summer and see if it will work for them. Then they will decide if it’s something they want to continue doing throughout the school year. While I’m all for unstructured, interest-based learning for the summer months, I’m not convinced that a summer trial period is the best way to determine if homeschooling will work for your family. Here are three reasons why:

1.     Kids who are used to the structure of a brick and mortar school may not want to be “taught” and may not want to “do school” at home during their summer break because they really do just want a break. This is their time to relax, to do what interests them, to be curious, to play, to read, to not have any pressure. If parents decide this is the time they are going to introduce a curriculum or try to do “lessons” with their kids, it’s likely they will be met with resistance.  Parent’s might determine that homeschooling won’t work for them because their kids just won’t learn at home and won’t cooperate with them. The timing isn’t right. Summer time is time for kids to be kids.
2.     It’s busy out there! If you are the kind of parent who wants to do field trips with your kids, summer time doesn’t give you the right feel for what it will be like in the fall.  Summer camps and tourism make popular museums and other fun destinations crowded and uncomfortable. During the school day, most places are empty and you can enjoy them as a family without crowds, without noise, without extra traffic. During the typical school day, you can spend hours on your own exploring museums, beaches and tide pools, amusement parks, Costco, without the congestion that comes with the summer.
3.     Deschooling! It’s important to take some time to deschool before jumping into homeschooling. Deschooling means getting yourself and your family out of the traditional school mindset. It means taking a break (usually a proper deschooling is one month per year spent in traditional school). It means rediscovering how your child learns best and finding out what really drives your child. What is he interested in? What are her passions? What kind of homeschooling family will we be? Will we recreate school at home, or will we be more eclectic, or will we embrace unschooling? All of those questions are formed and some answers develop during the process of deschooling. One can’t really deschool over the summer because that’s not enough time and summer activities take the place of deschooling.

Summertime can be a time to dip your toes into homeschooling by maybe loosening the reins on the kids and letting them decompress so that when it comes time to start the deschooling and homeschooling process in the fall, you’re ready for it and your kids are ready for it!

Monday, December 31, 2012

You Fill Up My Senses

Today we celebrated my first-born’s 7th birthday, December 31, 2012. Being pregnant through the entire Christmas season gave new meaning to nearly all the Christmas songs I listened to. So much music about new life, miracles, light, life, love, family, wonder, hope.  The messages were so personal and really hit home. To this day, I cry when I hear “A child, a child, sleeping in the night, he will bring us goodness and light.” That’s exactly what my Light brought to us and brings to us every single day: goodness and light. 

The birth of my first baby brought in the New Year for all, but also was the birth a mother and father, a new life, a new everything for Rob and me. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what name we should give our son- the first grandbaby in both of our families. We had lists and books and google searches. But, then, another song “Point of Light” came into my life. I’d heard the song before, but this time, hearing it sung by a friend, was more special. I remember thinking “that’s what I want our son to be, a point of light.” Immediately I looked up names that meant Light and found the right one. It hadn’t been on any of our original lists, but when I suggested it to Rob, it was all but set in stone. And it fits. He is a Light, shining clear and full of brightness.

It wasn’t easy for me to be pregnant. Every part of my body hurt from nearly the beginning of pregnancy. I remember one day, driving in the car listening to John Denver when Annie’s Song came on. I started sobbing on the 210 freeway. The lyrics were so fitting then and they remain true today. I sang that song to him as a lullaby most nights trying to help him drift off to sleep:

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again

Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you
Come love me again

Music fills up Light’s senses, too. It’s not surprising that there were so many songs that had such an impact on me when I was pregnant with him. He is a musical child. There is rhythm and song in all the things that he does. Music excites him, saddens him, interests him. He has had many many intense interests in his life, and intertwined with all of them was music.

As I’m finishing writing this, I know I haven’t captured quite how I feel. I think that’s why I’ve referenced so many songs. The music captures the emotions better than I ever could with words. Light fills up my senses more completely than the best, most emotional, most touching, most rewarding song you could possibly hear. He is like a song- my favorite song, the song that brings back memories, that makes me laugh and cry and have goosebumps all over my body. I am excited to see what this year brings for Light and for our family. One thing I know for sure, though, is that he will continue to bring us goodness and light.

Happy Birthday, Light.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Force.

My mom just told me that had anyone tried to take a picture of me 3 years ago, I would have shoved the camera somewhere unspeakable. I was so miserable being pregnant. I can’t find one single picture of me pregnant past October of 2009. She’s right, I was horribly uncomfortable; I was in pain and I was a raging lunatic irritable.

Now as I write this, I am sitting in the dark next to my “baby” who is sound asleep, listening to Christmas music and in disbelief that my “baby” is turning 3 today. At this moment, I am the exact opposite of miserable, the exact opposite of irritable. I am happier than ever. I am luckier than ever. I am Happiness’ mommy. And I am addicted to taking pictures of her. I want to capture and remember every single moment of her life. As cliché as it sounds, her life has flown by so far. And, I want to hold on to every minute of her. She is a force. Everything she does is with force and intensity and conviction. Everything. She does everything with all parts of her being. She is not a half way kind of girl. She is an all or nothing girl.

When you become a parent, no one tells you that you will grieve the baby, toddler, preschooler that you once had. Bittersweet does not even begin to capture what it feels like to watch old videos and look at pictures and wonder, “what happened?”. Where did the time go? Unlike with Light, I can’t remember when she broke her first tooth. I can’t remember when she first sat up or walked unassisted. I can hardly remember the exact hour of her birth; Rob and I are debating that tonight. I don’t know when she learned to dress herself. I don’t remember when she said her first word. I guess when you have your second child, distractions take over and you forget to write things down. But, I have pictures. I have tons of pictures.

And, I remember the exact moment when she stole my heart. She had it from the very instant I laid eyes on her. She grabbed hold with that force. Right then. Stronger than I could have imagined. And she holds onto it and she tells me how much she loves me and she tells me “I’m your girl forever.” All or nothing. And she tells me “I love you too much for you to be away from me.” All or nothing. And she tells me “I won’t EVER ever EVER be your friend again if you make me mad.” All or nothing. And she hugs me and says “Do you recognize how much I love you?” All or nothing.

This girl is a force.

Happy Birthday, Happiness. You are my girl forever.

Monday, October 8, 2012

How We Homeschool

I thought today I might write something a little more descriptive about what homeschooling looks like in our family.  I’ve come to learn that for each family homeschooling means something very different and very few families do it exactly the same way.  I think a lot of “how” a family homeschools has a lot to do with “why” a family homeschools. For us, specifically, we home school because Light has very different academic needs than most other 6 year olds. Along with those different academic needs, he also has some asynchrony in his development, meaning that he is not at the same level across the board. In some ways, he is 6 going on 4, especially when he is upset, anxious, nervous, mad, scared or with large groups of people. But, in some areas, he is 6 going on 25. It just did not seem possible to find a school that could accommodate his asynchrony — challenge him where he needs it and have patience with him when he needs it.  So, we’ve decided the best place to meet his needs is at home.

Light is also a kid who doesn’t like to be told what to learn, how to learn it or when to learn it. He has insatiable curiosity in some areas, yet in some very basic academic areas, he has very little interest. It is nearly impossible to motivate him to practice something that he doesn’t find meaningful. This has an impact on how we handle homeschooling as well. We can’t push him to do things that are not inherently interesting to him without having a huge amount of things available to him that he wants to do.

So, we don’t have a boxed curriculum that is Grade 1 or 2 or whatever. We have pieced together a variety of things from a variety of places and have put together a program that seems to be working for us for now.  Here is the nitty gritty of what we have:

·      Scholastic Grade 4 workbook
·      Spectrum Math Grade 2
·      Spectrum Science Grade 3
·      Spectrum Language Arts Grade 3
·      Science Fusion Curriculum Grade 2
·      Geometry Text Grade 10
·      The Story of the World and Activity Books
·      Chester Comix for primarily American History/Government
·      The Cartoon History of the Universe
·      A chemistry activity set for up to age 10
·      Too many novels and non-fiction books to count. All of various reading levels.
·      Online games: DragonBox+ for some math work, BBC typing game
·      Many games and puzzles
·      Arts and Crafts
·      Piano lessons
·      Karate class
·      Tennis lessons
·      Cub scouts
·      Private tutor/educational specialist 2 hours per week
·      Various documentaries on his current interests

We don’t do all of these things everyday. We don’t assign days for Language Arts/Math/History, etc.  We don’t do “school” from 9-3. We are working on a rhythm to our day. I would say, though, that on average, we spend about 3 hours per day actively doing structured school. 1-2 of those hours are during naptime for Happiness. The rest of the structured school happens in smaller sections throughout the day, or when Rob gets home from work.

In the car, we do a lot of talking. Yesterday we talked about synonyms, homonyms, antonyms, palindromes, etc.  We do math equations in the car. When we grocery shop, we talk about nutrition. We live learning.  Or, we learn living. Either way.

For Light, learning is a critical component to his day, well his life actually, but it can’t be all structured or all my idea. So, I suggest ideas and provide interesting outings, activities, books and games.  He is involved in daily tasks and helping to run the house. He loves to cook for himself and to bake. We need to do more of that.

I resonate with the ideas of unschooling very much. 
And, I love the educational ideas of Sir Ken Robinson

But, my need to be in control or have some sort of way to assess learning prevents me from embracing it whole-heartedly. So, we may go a few days without any type of structured school and then I get panicked, so we have to get out a workbook! I am hoping to let go of more of that need to control and really follow the interests of my children and see where that takes us. I think as long as I can make sure that Light has mastered grade level standards for his age, I can relax and go with his flow. But, sometimes he needs a little push to get motivated.

Unschooling to me is maintaining that intrinsic desire to learn. That innate curiosity that babies have, young children have, that we as adults had and hopefully still have. It is not grounded in extrinsic rewards or validation. The satisfaction comes from the learning itself. These ideas are wonderful and I try to embrace them when it comes to homeschooling. That’s why it pained me so very much to implement a “reward sticker chart” for Light to use to earn Dungeons and Dragons figures. Remember when I wrote that it was hard for him to do anything that wasn’t his idea? It was hard for him to care to take the time to learn the basics? Well, he got a sticker for each workbook page of “basics” he did. Once he reached 15 he earned a figure. It pains me even more to report that it worked. Yep. He cruised through 30 pages of 4th grade work in order to earn a figure. Well, he cruised through the first 15 pages. Then 10 pages and the last 5 pages were less motivating. I’m curious to see if the stickers continue to work.

My primary concern right now is finding social outlets for him. He is going through a major separation anxiety phase and so dropping him off for classes or leaving him with friends is very difficult. He is with friends during karate and cub scouts, but we are having very few play dates. He doesn’t get invited places; he wouldn’t go anyway. He likes people. He gets overwhelmed with more than one friend at a time. He just started talking about his birthday party this year. He says he just wants a family party. I can understand that, but it also makes me sad for him. He was completely stressed out at his birthday party last year. All of the kids from his kindergarten class came, plus siblings and more friends. I’m finding this to be a tricky area for us. He’s very content to stay home or go to a museum and then come home. He doesn’t seem to miss the after school play times, but it’s so important.  Anyway, I’m working on that. His academics will be fine no matter what. But, we need to focus on his heart and his social well-being.

So, our week looks something like this:
Monday: Tennis
Tuesday: Piano and Cub Scouts
Wednesday: Karate
Thursday: Educational Specialist
Friday: Open

We have something scheduled everyday except Friday.  Rob and I go to a SENG parent group on Tuesday mornings for the next 6 weeks. 

On Thursday morning we see an educational specialist, for lack of a better term. He deserves his very own post. That will come next.  But, on those days, I don’t ask for much more structured time from him because he is pretty tired afterward.

Both Light and Happiness have a lot of freedom and flexibility in their days. I ask for piano practice a few times during the week. Happiness isn’t in any classes, yet, but dance is in her near future.

Light spends his free time organizing books, reading, talking about roller coasters and playing with his Dungeons and Dragons figures. Or doing geometry and hanging out with me.

Happiness spends her free time playing princess, reading books, talking, painting her body and hanging out with me.

I spend my free time…  Oops, that was some wishful thinking.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Blast Off"

The kids and I just took an impromptu trip back to Wisconsin for a family reunion. Light is a seasoned traveler and does really well with the security procedures, all the waiting and is okay when he has to sit across the aisle from me. Happiness is getting to be an expert at it too, although she is not a big fan of the “blast off” as both of my kids have independently coined the take-off.  

Travelling alone with two small children requires a great deal of endurance and patience. Most of all, though, it requires a sense of humor and excellent problem solving skills. You must be prepared for things to happen. Things like waiting in line to board the plane and your 2 year old yells “I have to pooooop and I can’t wait!” Or as soon as said 2 year old falls asleep on the plane, your 6 year old yells across the aisle “Mommy I have to poop” (and it echoes through the entire cabin on the plane ‘poop poop poop poop’).

One might think that traveling with a 6 year old would be the easy part and the 2 year old would be more challenging. The trouble with that thinking happens when said 6 year old doesn’t want to sit alone in his seat while I take Happiness to the bathroom and he won’t stand outside the bathroom either. So, imagine 3 people crammed into the airplane potty. Talk about space invaders!

And, poor Light. He always seems to come down with something when we fly. So of course the day we are scheduled to leave, he gets a fever. He’s a trooper, so with Advil in his system, we are on our way. He has the chills on the plane and it’s super cold anyway on this particular flight. I have him wrapped in blankets and he’s sipping his drink when “POW” Happiness kicks and his iced drink spills ALL OVER HIS LAP!!  Light has a scream like no other kid in the world. It is ear piercing and intense. Everyone on the plane heard this one! Poor poor guy. It’s uncomfortable to get spilled on in general, but with a fever and I have no extra clothes for him, so it’s even worse! Time to get creative. Luckily he is wearing underwear today. So, I take off his pants and turn his underwear on backwards and tuck his t-shirt into the front of his pants. This way the wet spot is at the front so he can sit on his bottom and the t-shirt is semi-protecting his skin from the wet at the front. Then I wrapped a couple of extra blankets around him. Lesson learned- Light will also travel with an extra set of clothes in his carry-on from now on.

Happiness almost always sleeps for some part of the travel day. It’s great except when she falls asleep with only 20 minutes left in the flight because that means I have to carry her in the Ergo carrier, carry her little back pack, my big backpack and usually Light’s backpack, especially if we are in a hurry or we have to go super far between gates, which is almost always.

Our flight home was quite turbulent much to the dismay of Happiness and the pleasure of Light, who is quite interested in roller coasters. This time at least he was yelling “Wheeee, it’s like a roller coaster ride” instead of what he yelled 2 years ago when we experienced a similar level of turbulence: “We’re gonna crash.” Remember how I mentioned before that he has an ear-piercing scream? Yep, he can really yell and everyone around heard him that time, too!

He is also of an age where he has started asking questions about why everyone has to take their shoes off to go through security. Why is their security anyway? Why can’t anyone walk with us right up to the gate? Why can’t Grandma and Grandpa be waiting for us right when we get off the plane? Why can’t we leave our bags sitting right here for a minute while we go look out the window? Lots of questions that I wish I didn’t have to answer.

So after trying to nurse a 2.5 year old discreetly on an airplane, wearing a fanny pack for easy access to essentials, trying to keep little feet from kicking the seats in front of us, and the exhaustion of entertaining two intense kiddos on our travel days, I am extending invitations out to everyone to come visit us, please!

If you come here, I won’t have to explain to Light why we have to fly to Wisconsin from California via Tennessee and then home to California from Wisconsin via Detroit. Because he is absolutely correct when he says “it makes no sense at all.”

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Little Scientist

The last few posts have focused primarily on Light, so I thought I’d provide a little insight into my little girl, Happiness. Happiness is 2 years, 8 months old, going on 15. She is very busy, very curious, very persistent, very lovely, very everything. Sometimes she frustrates me to no end. For example, the other night she drew on her entire body with a green marker. The next night, she was painting happily and decided her newest canvas would be her stomach, belly button and INSIDE her ears.

One day I was skyping with my mom and venting sharing some frustrations observations about Happiness’s latest antics experiments when it dawned on me that she is a scientist to the core: a researcher, explorer and experimenter.

Here are some of the questions she asks herself on a daily basis:
1.     What will this color look like on the wall? How about the floor? How about my ear?
2.     What sound will these crackers make if I drop the whole bag on the kitchen floor, how about the living room floor,  how about the floor of the car? Will the sound be the same? Will the crumbs fall the same way each time? Then what happens if I step on them?
3.     Will the kitchen sink clog EVERYTIME I put toilet paper in it? What about the bathroom sink?
4.     Will Mommy’s glasses really get to the ocean if I flush them down the toilet?
5.     Will my hair fall out each time I use the scissors on it?
6.     If I spit water out my mouth, is it the same as spitting juice out of my mouth? How about food?
7.     Do my fingers and a pencil make the same kind hole in an avocado?
8.     Is it easier to get ink or crayon off of piano keys?
9.     Does a penny come out between the piano keys easily as a puzzle piece?
10. Does water spray out of the faucet in the tub when I use my hands to cover the spout? How about if I use a toy? My foot? My brother’s head?
11. If I pee here on the carpet, will it make the same shape as if I pee here on the hard wood floor?
12. Does my brother get the same kind of mad when I cut his new quiz cards in half as he does if I rip his new book?
13. Does a Zingo piece melt in the toaster? How about a Candyland Guy? A Go Fish Card?
14. Do I really make people smile a hundred times every day?
15. Does my mommy cry tears of happiness every single time I hug her and tell her I love her? How about my daddy?
16. Do I always have this effect on people? Yes, my sweet, curious, independent girl, you do. That, I know for sure.